I’ve always felt embraced upon stepping outside the Atocha train station. For the past twenty years, the Emperador Carlos V Plaza – which is nothing but a jumble of cars, the concentric circle water makes as it siphons down the drain and the dark, slender shade of the trees on the Paseo del Prado to the right – has received me with the fluorescent gaze of the Hotel Mediodía. It does me good.
Time and again, that hotel – where I’ve never slept and which sits beside the Museo Reina Sofía – says to me, ‘you’re home.’ Time and again, in spite of everything. Despite having escaped, despite the noise, the dirty air, the politicking and the politicians and the hole in my pocket; despite my feet, tired from running all over and arriving late, despite the fact that this city hurts your lower back and can be a cold hand squeezing your heart a little bit more each day, despite that, all of that, the Hotel Mediodía says ‘you’re home’ and I take a breath. A small smile of defiance appears on my lips.
It’s not a breath of rest or relief. It’s something else. For Madrid, being a home doesn’t mean being a fireside refuge. Madrid isn’t a mother’s embrace, there’s no scent of saltpetre or the comforting steam of a wood-fired kitchen. The Hotel Mediodía, its sign silhouetted in the high sky of this infinite city, is here to tell you: you’re back again, in the place where everything is possible.
By Lara Moreno
Translated by Katie Whittemore
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